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State PACEs Action

Early Relational Health Innovators Partner In Program Supported by PACEs Connection Cooperative of Communities Members in Twelve California Counties


Christina Bethell, Ph.D, MBA, MPH, founder of the Child and Adolescent Health Measurement Initiative (CAHMI), principal author of the groundbreaking study on positive childhood experiences, and creator of the free Well Visit Planner, among other innovations.

Two internationally-respected leaders and innovators in complementary aspects of early relational health and childhood and maternal health equity recently launched a partnership they believe will benefit everyone from newborn babies and the mothers, fathers, grandparents, adoptive, kinship, foster parents and other primary caregivers who care for them, to pediatricians providing recommended well child visits, and communities focused on trauma prevention and resiliency building.

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Christina Bethell, PhD, MBA, MPH, and founder of the Child and Adolescent Health Measurement Initiative (CHAMI) and the EnACT! (Engagement in Action Framework) is cross-promoting her free Well Visit Planner, a web-based application to help families and physicians be better prepared for recommended well child visits, with Deborah McNelis, M. Ed, author and founder of “The First 60 Days” booklet and movement.

Bethell is also the principal author of a study on positive childhood experiences (PCEs) and their impact on preventing adult mental illness that led to the name change of ACEs Connection to PACEs Connection — for positive and adverse childhood experiences — in March of 2021.

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McNelis is the founder of Brain Insights and creator of the Neuro-Nurturing® series of ringed booklets sharing age-appropriate activities paired with brain development insights for caregivers to use in everyday life with babies and children. These activities increase the likelihood of secure attachment and a foundation of early relational and physical health.

McNelis is also the author of a groundbreaking booklet, "The First 60 Days" (link is to a 12-page sample). The booklet and a movement she has started by the same name, are her heartfelt response to groundbreaking research by Dr. Bruce Duncan Perry and colleagues showing the negative developmental impact of toxic stress in the first two months of life, and the importance of practicing what she calls "Neuro-Nurturing®” during this influential time in  infant brain development.

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The booklet dispels 22 potentially harmful myths to reassure and support new parents. A portion of each myth is told from the newborn's point of view. Readers also learn what newborns need for establishing a secure attachment and overall optimal development from what McNelis refers to as,Neuro-Nurturing® Knowledge. "It is all based on brain science revealing what babies and their parents/caregivers really need," McNelis said.

Details of ways the project’s partnership between Bethell and McNelis can benefit newborns, families, caregivers, communities, and PACEs Connection are spelled out in the attached one-sheet that is ready for download and distribution at resiliency initiative meetings across the country.

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The sheet shares information about Bethell and McNelis and their work thus far, and was created with support from Dana Brown, PACEs Connection PACEs science statewide facilitator, who is hoping that promoting the work directly to communities will create use of the Well Visit Planner and the Neuro-Nurturing® materials.

Screen Shot 2023-10-03 at 6.12.34 PM“Bethell and McNelis are dedicated to creating positive health equity, including child flourishing and family resilience. This is a terrific fit for any community,” said Brown.

“In California we have PACEs Connection cross-sector, resiliency focused communities in numerous counties. We’re starting out with the members of the PACEs Connection Cooperative of Communities. Our hope is that member organizations in 12 counties in the Cooperatives will share the information with the parents and caregivers for the families they serve, and that hospitals, clinics, and child-serving organizations – including home-visiting nurses – will help promote use of the Well Visit Planner and the Brain Insights materials,” said Brown.

Cross-sector community member organizations belonging to the Coops include schools, communities of faith, health clinics, child-and-family-serving organizations, businesses, hospitals, media representatives, law enforcement, county and city government offices, and more.

The twelve member counties are: Fresno, Los Angeles, Madera, Orange, Riverside, Sacramento, San Bernardino, Santa Barbara, San Diego, Sonoma, Tulare, and Yolo.

“We’ll know we’re succeeding if there is an increase in enrollments in the Well Visit Planner in these areas. This is important because by promoting well child visits, we increase the likelihood of families and physicians establishing a an ongoing relationship. Building on a trusted relationship, together they are more likely to be able to identify a developmental delay, postpartum depression, or  consequences of a challenge in the home that can be supported before a challenge becomes a crisis,” said Brown.

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“The hope is to continue to braid resources within communities — as they are interested — so there are lists of resources available for the pediatricians and other caregivers to share with families. We want to support parents, care providers, and communities in creating safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments for every child, and believe these innovations, in combination with more to come, can help to do that,” said Brown.

“This project partnership and the fact that Deb is willing to discount her materials so they can be a potential fundraiser for communities, and is sharing with PACEs Connection profits from the sale of her materials — which are promoted on the Well Visit Planner site, which has the potential to reach millions of parents — bodes well for all involved,” said Brown.

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According to McNelis, the ringed books are literally positive infant and childhood experiences parents and childcare providers alike can keep in their pockets and use throughout the day to engage little ones in activities that nurture optimal brain development. Across the series of books, there are scores of activities to stimulate fine and large motor development, language skills, thinking abilities, creativity, curiosity, self-awareness, and most importantly, connection with others.

State and child serving organizations have bought thousands of sets of the ringed books for parents in various programs.

“The First 60 Days” booklet and the ringed Neuro-Nurturing® series from newborn through age five, are available for bulk and individual purchase. Organizations seeking to customize the materials can opt to have their logo printed on the back cover, and can resell the materials at the retail price for fundraisers, in hospital and faith community gift shops, at health fairs and such, as is detailed in the attached one sheet,” said Brown.

“People wishing to access and use the Well Visit Planner with their infants and children need simply click on the link and enroll,” she added.

For more information about joining the PACEs Connection Cooperative of communities in California, reach out to Dana Brown at For Coop information the U.S. and territories, contact Mathew Portell, director of education and outreach, at


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